With the Tokyo Paralympics fast approaching we spotlight the Australian Women’s Goalball Team and assess their chances of taking home a medal.
Competition for medals will be fierce in the women’s goalball competition at Tokyo 2020, with arguably five teams capable of winning gold and any one of eight teams capable of getting on the medals podium.
The Australian Women’s team, or Aussie Belles, are one of the medal hopefuls.
The team boasts some solid international experience alongside some rising stars. However they’ll need to improve on their recent results, with improved performance in both attack and defence if they want a place on the medals podium.
Women’s goalball group stages
Australia will begin with group matches against; RPC (Paralympic athletes with Russian roots), Israel, China and Canada. This is perhaps the weaker of the two groups, and with 4 of the 5 teams qualifying for the quarter final stage the Aussie Belles could need just one win to go through.
The other pool consists of USA, Turkey, Brazil, Egypt and Japan; three of the world’s top four teams, along with the host nation.
While getting out of the group is within this squads capabilities, a quarter final tie against one of the world’s top teams is likely to be a tough ask.
The Australian women’s goalball team Paralympic schedule
All goalball games will be played in the Makuhari Messe, a convention centre outside Tokyo, around 30 minute drive from the Paralympic Village where the team are due to stay.
Group matches begin on 25th August, with the final on 3rd September.
Time (in Tokyo)
Israel vs Australia
Wed 25 August
17:30 – 21:45
Australia vs China
Fri 27 August
13:15 - 16:00
Canada vs Australia
Sat 28 August
09:00 - 11:45
Australia vs RPC
Mon 30 August
17:30 – 20:15
Wed 1 September
13:15 – 16:15
17:45 – 20:45
Thu 2 September
13:15 – 16:15
17:45 – 20:45
Bronze Medal Match
Fri 3 September
13:15 – 16:15
Gold Medal Match and Victory Ceremony
Fri 3 September
17:45 – 21:55
The Australian Women’s goalball team’s performance at previous Paralympics
The Aussies Belles have a solid record in qualifying for the Paralympics. Prior to 2020/21 they qualified for 6 out of 9 tournaments.
Sadly the team is yet to medal and have had consecutive 9th place finishes in the last two tournaments.
The Aussie Belles had a tough time in Rio in 2016. They finished bottom of their group after 1 draw (against Ukraine) and three defeats (against Canada, China and the eventual winners Turkey).
This was a slight improvement on the previous games when they lost all three group games (against Canada, Japan, China and the USA)
The team will be hoping to build on this record as they head into this year’s tournament.
Their performance in qualifying will give them some hope. They finished fourth overall, thrashing Canada 5-1 in quarter finals before being knocked out by China in the semi-finals and eventually losing the bronze medal match to Israel.
World Championship Form
The team has fared better at world championships. In the 2018 tournament they got out of the group stages with a record of 2 wins and three defeats. They were eventually beaten by a strong Brazil side in the quarterfinals.
This was an improvement on the previous world championships where, despite one victory (against Sweden), they failed to make it out of the group stages.
The team have yet to take a medal at a world championships since the competition began in 1982.
Asia Pacific championships
The Australian Women’s only major tournament medal to date was at the 2015 Asia Pacific Goalball Regional Championships, in Hangzhou, China. The team took home the bronze medal in the medal match against Thailand. In the last two regional tournaments the team has again finished fourth.
The Australian squad for Tokyo
The squad of six players for this year’s tournament has now been announced:
- Amy Ridley
- Brodie Smith
- Raissa Martin
- Tyan Taylor
- Jenny Blow
- Meica Horsburgh
It’s a squad that mixes youth and experience.
Three of the players – Meica Horsburgh, Jenny Blow and Tyan Taylor – will compete at their third Paralympics. Also included is Raissa Martin, who was part of the Team for Rio 2016.
Brodie Smith, who was captain of the national U19s side that won the 2017 World Championships, and Amy Ridley, who won silver with the U19s at the 2019 World Championships, provide some young blood.
Team Coach peter Corr said of the team:
“I would say we have a really good balance. We’ve got very high hopes. I believe a team takes three cycles to put themselves into a competitive position and this is our third cycle.
We’re well equipped, even with Covid, we’ve had a chance to really fine-tune things over a more extended period. Once you’re selected at this level, whatever obstacles are in your way, there are no excuses. You get yourself ready to perform at your best and you’re judged on that. That’s what we’re ready and willing to do.
With our small base, we’ve just focused on getting individually better and correcting the things we believe we need to.”
Who are the favourites going into the tournament?
It’s going to be hard for any team to take a medal position over the current top four teams in the world, Turkey, China, Brazil and the USA – find the full rankings here.
Turkey are probably the tournament favourites. They won gold last time out in Rio and took silver at the last world championships.
While sometimes lacking in defence they have an incredible offense. In the 2018 World Championships for example Altunoluk Sevda of Turkey was the tournament’s top scorer with an incredible 46 goals.
China would probably be considered 2nd favourites behind Turkey. They did well in qualifying and have consistently done well at more recent Paralympic games, taking home silver in the last 3 tournaments . However they didn’t do well in the 2018 World Championships finishing 10th overall and that will be a concern to them.
The USA look a powerful team going into this year’s tournament. Although they have had a dip in form over recent years they have incredible international pedigree. They have taken a medal at pretty much every major tournament over the last decade and will be fired up to take another on in Tokyo. They also have a formidable centre in Amanda Dennis.
Brazil, Japan and Canada can beat anyone on their day and also have a good chance of collecting a medal.
Challenging times create a level playing field
This year, perhaps more than in the previous tournaments, those who occupy the medal places are going to have to show tremendous resilience. Experience will also play a key role, which this team now has in abundance.
As we said in our spotlight on the USA women’s goalball team, with opportunities to compete (or even train) limited over the past year it’s difficult to judge any team’s chances on form or qualification results.
There is no doubt that this Aussie Belles team are outsiders for a medal, they are currently ranked 10th in the world. However past tournament form suggests an upward trajectory and in a topsy turvy year this could be the Aussie Belles best opportunity so far to seize an Paralympic medal.
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